Wednesday, June 17, 2009

One can't help but wonder whether Amercians place a lower value on human life...

...than do the peoples of every other advanced democracy on the freakin' planet. Or is it just that we place an even higher value on money? Sure, we like life, but money?? Now that matters! Any other ordering would be ideologically suspect, of course. To hell with those healthy, financially secure, pinko non-Americans who care about something beyond their own bank balance.

The Isolationism of Health Reform - Slate

Note: the Frontline documentary mentioned in the article is worth watching: more balanced than Michael Moore's Sicko (which, while one-sided, is still a powerful, aptly enraged/enraging polemic), but like that film is an effective indictment of the U.S. system's callousness and absurdity.

Violent, irrational wingnuttery is alarming even the alarmists

Frank Rich put it well in his Sunday NYT column:
When a Fox News anchor, reacting to his own network’s surging e-mail traffic, warns urgently on-camera of a rise in hate-filled, “amped up” Americans who are “taking the extra step and getting the gun out,” maybe we should listen. He has better sources in that underground than most....

What is this fury about? In his scant 145 days in office, the new president has not remotely matched the Bush record in deficit creation. Nor has he repealed the right to bear arms or exacerbated the wars he inherited. He has tried more than his predecessor ever did to reach across the aisle. But none of that seems to matter. A sizable minority of Americans is irrationally fearful of the fast-moving generational, cultural and racial turnover Obama embodies — indeed, of the 21st century itself. That minority is now getting angrier in inverse relationship to his popularity with the vast majority of the country. Change can be frightening and traumatic, especially if it’s not change you can believe in.

In the long term, the only real solution I see is the development of some IQ-enhancing drug: "Comprehenzine," they might call it. Big Pharma would make a killing. (On the other hand, a suddenly enwisened populace would begin to demand sensible, Canadian-style legislation to control drug prices -- so that development is probably not on the horizon.) Lacking such an essential tool, I can only recommend that law-enforcement personnel begin packing "smart darts" capable of administering powerful antipsychotic medication at a distance. At a very great distance.

On the backstreets, the story remains obscene

Too Poor to Make the News - Barbara's Blog

Monday, June 1, 2009

This oversight deserves a special section in Duh Magazine

Slumping Economy Tests Aid System Tied to Jobs - The New York Times

Also, is anyone else bothered by a social policy premised on herding people into low-paying, crap jobs? Yes, all able-bodied people should contribute to society -- but without a corresponding effort to create more good jobs that actually pay the bills, the present system carries more than a slight whiff of sleaze, sort of like the prison work program in Shawshank Redemption. "You slavemasters need more warm bodies? Here ya go! Now you be sure and thank Maisie for this fine pie...."

The Education Myth revisited

I like Robert Reich: he's been one of the more thoughtful and on-target progressive policymakers and pundits since his days as Labor Secretary in the Clinton administration. However....

The Future of Manufacturing: Workforce Education - Salon

Here's the letter I wrote in response. (N.B.: Most of the other responses are very good and well worth reading.)

As usual, Mr. Reich's heart is in the right place. However, I am increasingly dismayed by his credulous cheerleading for what Jonathan Tasini and other commentators have dubbed "The Education Myth."

As others on this forum have ably noted:

1) Many cannot afford the necessary retraining, and even if they could, sufficient facilities do not exist.

2) Many do not have the *aptitude* for the kind of higher-order "symbolic-analytic" thinking that has a well-paying job attached to it. (You edu-optimists always neglect this point.) This lack of aptitude can manifest itself as a lack of technical chops (my problem) or a lack of scholastic chops in general. Mr. Reich, maybe you think education is the answer for everyone because everyone you know can master technical/academic skills with one brain lobe tied behind their backs. But many, many of us are not wired up that way -- and that leaves you advancing a solution with rather limited applicability and, therefore, limited utility. A solution that only improves things for 20 percent of Americans is an elite solution -- and we've had far too many of those. When a Wal-Mart clerk no longer has to worry about making rent or putting food on the table or paying her family's medical bills -- *then* we'll have a solution that's worthy of the name.

3) Guess what? Not everyone *wants* to do "symbolic-analytic" work, even if they are able. Mr. Reich, are you arguing that, in order to make a decent living, everyone will be forced to reshape themselves to fit into the same cramped vocational hole? If so, it's a dreary, depressing future you foresee.

The gift that keeps on taking

Reagan Did It - The New York Times